All posts filed under: Musings

A Thoughtful Advent

Didn’t they realise the only way to change things was to act? – Tamora Pierce Oh, merry December! ‘Tis finally Advent – the season to be jolly! Last year we inaugurated our own humble December traditions to mark our first year living under the same roof: a gilded paper star laced with twinkling lights hung in the bay window and glossy coloured baubles threaded onto twine and slung from the picture rail. A jar of 24 assorted chocolates for him, from me, and 24 Lindt truffles tucked hidden about the house for me, from him. I’m already enjoying revisiting these youthful customs again this year (so is my stomach.) As we reach the end of this sad year – a year full of nasty surprises – these small, simple rituals feel more important than ever. They offer a way of anchoring ourselves in the present, and of connecting us to the past. They are a welcomed comfort, a distraction from fretting over much about the dire state of the nation. But more than ever, I’m aware that this is a luxury many cannot afford or are unable …

Embracing Autumn

Ten ways I’m embracing autumn, these strange in-between days. Cutting blooms from the hibiscus tree outside our house, stuffing them in glass bottles scattered around the house. Harvesting tomatoes, scoffing them – sweet, juicy, their seeds dribbling down my elbows – straight from the vine Roasting squash for tea (these, my friends – in a word: delicious.) Porridge dotted with juicy, unctuous raisins and almonds in the mornings. Cosy weekend afternoons, curled up with good words and chocolate buttons. Taking myself out for (hot) coffee on weekend mornings. Walking everywhere, now the weather has cooled. Walking through the rains. Deadheading the roses, weeding the borders, sowing bulbs: readying for the freeze. Knitting again, a sea-green scarf to begin the season. Tilting my face up to the sun, soaking in the golden light. We’re at the crux of summer; the days split between thick, oozing heat and days of damp, autumn rains. The air grows cold just before the downpours arrive, and at night a cool wind rattles through these suburban streets. You can smell it on the breeze. The …

Sixty Years

Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years.  Simone Signoret My grandparents, Frederick and Joy, were married in March 1956. The day, they say, was brisk; the blossoms just beginning to unfurl. They had met by chance one night in a London dance hall, my grandfather home on leave from his conscription to a ruined Lüneberg. When we ask of the courtship, the proposal and the long months that followed, torturously, languidly, while my grandfather completed national service, we are told: Oh, but it was all so long ago now! We can’t remember that far back, my grandmother flashing her wide, bright smile, lips painted always a pillar box red. I think there’s a wonderful story kept just for the two of them behind all that purported ‘forgetting’. Sixty years on, they still smile more than most anyone I know and tease each other with unceasing abandon. In twenty-five years I don’t think I’ve once seen them argue. One Friday in July, to celebrate these sixty years (720 months!) we filled a room …

On Europe

I am pretty wild about Europe. I have been for as long as I can remember. I fell in love during those early family holidays consisting of days spent wandering through cornfields in southern Germany; gazing upwards to admire the twin spires of Europe’s most beautiful cathedrals; the sprawling, speckled-grey chateau our parents and friends rented for several weeks. Days shelling on the vast blonde beaches of Brittany; collecting rose petals to sieve into perfume from bushes running riot on Austrian roadsides; sitting down to supper at Breton restaurants, fingers soaked in the creamy sauce that is so often a vessel for mussels in that part of the world. Days spent queuing to see Van Gogh, and Monet, and the attic where Anne Frank penned her famous diary. I would spend my pocket money – francs, deutschmarks, peseta – on keychains and pocket knives, practising my s’il vous plaîts and auf wiedersehns as I passed shiny coins across the counter. Even then the thought was thrilling: this wealth of foreign cultures on our doorstop and the thought that we – …

Life Is Like Riding A Bicycle

Since I wrote earlier, it has become clear that the explosions in Brussels this morning were not accidental. My heart aches for those affected both by today’s events in Belgium and by any violence, any day, any place. It feels impossible to wrap one’s head and heart around such ghastly acts. I’ve always found that putting pen to paper is the best way to try to make sense of dreadful things. There is of course no sense in violence, but there is sense, I think, in responding to events meant to incite hatred and anxiety with a level head and a degree of pragmatism. It would be so easy to let the waves of fear roll in every time you board a train, to sit on the tube with a pounding heart; to give in to fear and take the long route home. To cancel the holiday in Europe you’ve looked forward to for months; to react to strangers with hostility, to let suspicion breed. But life is like riding a bicycle, isn’t that what they say? If you …